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Why Email Open Rate Is Dead – and How Account Engagement Can Help

Why Email Open Rate Is Dead – and How Account Engagement Can Help

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GDPR, CPRA, the end of third-party cookies: data privacy is a hot topic among digital marketers, but it’s not just advertisers who should be worried. If your marketing strategy’s success is founded on clicks and email open rates, the data privacy landscape of the future could be an unpleasant awakening. 

Data privacy tools can impact your email strategy in a number of key ways:

The good news is that Marketing Cloud Account Engagement (Pardot) offers out-of-the-box tools that can support email marketers through some of these changes. Let’s take a look at the options.

View Email Clients in a Send Report

If part of reporting on your email successes relies on email open rates, the first tool Account Engagement offers that you will want to utilize is the “Email Clients” report. 

Found as a tab in a Sent Email report, this tool will give a breakdown of all email clients your recipients are using, including how many are using Apple Mail Privacy Protection and/or Outlook:

Viewing this report will give you a sense of how reliable your email open rate metrics actually are. For example, if you have a high percentage of recipients leveraging Apple Mail Privacy in your report, that is a signal that your email open rates will likely be artificially higher than they should be. That’s because Apple MPP is pre-opening every email sent and “hiding” true opens from marketing tools like Account Engagement — thus, a person could show as an open even if they have not actually opened your email.

Email Open Rate Considerations for Outlook Users

On the other side of this is Outlook. If you’re a B2B marketer, you likely have a sizable chunk of recipients opening your emails on Outlook. 

This isn’t new, but you may not have known that an email “open” is recorded when a pixel is triggered — often in the form of an image pixel. This means that if a recipient doesn’t download images and doesn’t click on a link, their open will likely not be captured. If you’re sending long-form emails with lots of relevant information and few links to click through, you could be missing the actual impact of that email if you’re only looking at open rates. 

Email Open Rate Considerations for DuckDuckGo Users

Not pictured here is the impact of something like DuckDuckGo’s inbox that, like its browser counterpart, is designed to “hide” things like email opens or link clicks from marketers. 

As consumers continue to search for ways to keep their user data private from marketers, we can expect inbox providers to allow for greater user-based controls like this. Those tools are just one more reason to consider moving away from reporting on email opens at all. 

Automations and Email Open Rates

If your email client reports are indicating a big impact in your open rate credibility, your next step needs to be an assessment of your Engagement Studios, Automation Rules, and Dynamic Lists that are using email opens. Fortunately, Account Engagement has an out-of-the-box tool for this as well!

In Account Engagement, navigate to “Reports,” then “Marketing Assets,” then “Automations.” You should see “Open Rules Audit” as a selection. Opening that report will pull a quick calculation of where your account is using email opens to trigger an action, like branching in an Engagement Studio, adding a person to a Dynamic List (see examples in this post), or triggering an Automation Rule if they “open” an email:

Keep in mind that not all of these will be active, so you will still have to do a bit of discovery on what needs to be edited and what should be simply archived. However, if you have multiple people creating assets and campaigns in your Account Engagement account, this report is a great resource for determining who should be involved in updating your automations with other engagement metrics (like clicks). 

Taking Extra Steps: Evaluating Bot Clicks in Email Opens

If you’re also triggering automations off email clicks, this is a good opportunity to check your recipient lists for email security tools. These tools will pre-click every link in an email before delivering it to the recipient, who may then also click the links that are most interesting to them. 

You may have noticed this show up in your email reports or in a prospect report, where it might look like a recipient clicked every link in your email — including your social media links and privacy policies — in under a minute. Impressive, if it were true!

Custom Redirect Solution for Catching Bot Clicks

Some industries appear to be more likely than others to use these, so the impact can be tricky to determine without a little bit of work on your end. Fortunately, using Account Engagement, you can use custom redirect links to lessen the impact. 

First, be sure that you have Visitor Filters in place under Admin > Automation Settings > Visitor Filters. This is a great place to start, and it will filter out most engagement from a number of security tools. 

Second, you can use a Custom Redirect link and hide it in your email templates. That way, if it gets clicked, you know that only a bot could click and and you know which recipients are impacted. Then you can filter them out of automations that use email clicks. 

You can use something simple as your hidden link — just make sure the image is small (one pixel by one pixel is fine) and is the same color as your background.

You can also use this strategy to decrease your scores for anyone who clicks on the link or add a tag that helps you understand your account-wide impact:

Adapting What You Report on Email Marketing

So if you can’t leverage email opens to determine if your recipients are interested in your email content, what can you report on? This is where Account Engagement’s integration to Salesforce is so great. 

You can report on website or landing page visits via Google Analytics, pull in interest from campaign members in Salesforce, or even look at your email report Interaction tab to see what percentage skimmed, read, or glanced at your emails. 

Importantly, the time has come to look beyond opens as a success metric — and Account Engagement can help you get there.

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  • Natalie Jackson is the Director of Demand Generation at CBIZ and co-host of the podcast Humans of Email. She has 12+ years of experience in B2B marketing strategy, demand generation, email strategy, account-based marketing, and digital marketing. Natalie has spoken at Dreamforce, MarketingProfs, Really Good Emails, Digital Summit, and Microsoft Community Summit, as well as for dozens of email webinars and local marketing events, including 2023 Litmus Live in Boston.

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